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Augie Choice motivates alumna's work in the QCA

March  07, 2013

Alumna Sophie Ali was changed by her Augie Choice experience – an opportunity to study abroad. Today her work and continued connections with Augustana make a practical impact in the Quad Cities community as she leads efforts to organize the “Lids for Kids” 5K walk/run, which will start at 8 a.m. from Sunset Park on Saturday, April 6, to raise money for the Spring Forward Learning Center.

Ali, a 2012 Augustana graduate and the community outreach coordinator for Spring Forward Learning Center, says funds raised from the event will help ensure the future of the center, a nonprofit that provides free after-school tutoring for youth in need throughout Rock Island County.

Ali’s interest in the center arose from Augustana’s emphasis on community service and her time abroad. “I spent six weeks in Brazil,” she said. “For the first time in my life, I was in a country where I didn’t speak the language. It made me realize what immigrant and refugee populations go through, when they come to this country and don’t speak English.”

Most recently, Rock Island has seen an influx in immigrants from Burma, Thailand and Tanzania. Children from those families often face enormous obstacles, said Ali, making the tutoring and mentoring programs at the Spring Forward Learning Center more important than ever.

The Spring Forward Learning Center was started by Good Shepherd Presbyterian Church as a grassroots effort to provide tutoring and mentoring services to local children in the Rock Island-Milan School District. It has grown into four locations—three churches and Frances Willard Elementary School. Two locations now serve immigrant children who are learning English while attending school. The center can serve up to 150 children with a small staff and about 40 volunteers.

Online registration is now open for the “Lids for Kids” 5K walk/run. All participants, both children and adults, are encouraged to wear the most outrageous hats they can find. Sign-up forms for the walk/run can be found on the center’s website, The cost is $25, which includes a T-shirt and goodie bag. All proceeds will go to benefit the center’s programs, which are mostly staffed by volunteers.

Volunteers at the center come from all parts of the community, including Deere & Company and Augustana College, which has played a leading role in the center’s successful volunteer efforts. In addition to Ali, several of the center’s staff, and many of its volunteers, are current or former Augustana students.

Like Ali, Augustana students who choose to study abroad can receive financial support from the college, thanks to a program launched in 2009 – Augie Choice. Focused on advancing student learning in the liberal arts and in alignment with the college’s strategic plan, Augie Choice grants students in their junior year or beyond the opportunity to receive a one-time grant of $2,000 to offset the expenses of study abroad, an internship or research project. Augie Choice is a visible symbol of the college’s commitment to study abroad as a way of preparing students to stand out.

Sam Schlouch
Senior Communication Director
(309) 794-7833